Throughout your life, you will live through a number of events that will get burned into your memory for ever. Some of them are personal, and don’t really affect anyone else but you, while others are shared across large groups of people, even populations, and can have lasting effects on not only your life, but the life of everyone on the planet.
15 years ago a event happened that shaped the world in ways that was impossible to predict at the time.
I am of course talking about 9/11. The attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.
I remember the day it happened quite clearly. I was at home, when one of my friends called me, and told me to get on the internet – this was just after the second plane had hit. I managed to get online before the towers collapsed, and remember the confusion and the many rumors being reported, which later turned out to be wrong.
At the time, I was active in Readerville, the now-closed book forum, where there was a general purpose discussion thread, which turned into a news and support thread. Most major news sites were overwhelmed with the traffic that hit them, and google put up a cached version of New York Times, allowing people to read it (with a delay). Even this cached version was at times overwhelmed by the sheer traffic. The most reliable news source many of the US regulars on Readerville had, was an ex-pat living in Amsterdam, reporting what they news there said – this news channel only brought verified news, so it cut out the rumors.
It was a horrible day – I knew a fair number of people in both New York and in Washington D.C., and it took days before I knew that they were all safe. Several of them had witnessed the attacks, and some had lost friends or family that day.
Looking back, it can be hard to explain to younger people why the attacks on the WTC was such a shock. Why we, even at the time, felt that this was a game changer. It was hardly like it was the first terrorist attack that had ever happened – not in the US, and not even on the WTC. But the scope of it felt very different. It somehow changed terrorist attacks from being attacks on single targets, to being coordinated on multiple targets, using other innocent victims as the weapons.
I am not sure that this in itself would have been enough to make 9/11 a gamechanger, but combined with the US president at the time, George W. Bush, it changed the geo-political reality we live in.
Using 9/11 as he vehicle, George W. Bush started two major wars – the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq. The war in Afghanistan was, in my opinion, justifiable, but handled completely wrong, especially after the start of the Iraq War, which could not in any way be justified by 9/11, and which in my opinion was an illegal war. Both of these wars are still going on today, and are costing lives among both the soldiers sent there and among the civilians. They are also the breeding ground for resentment, and for militant groups, which later turn into terrorists (see e.g. ISIS).
There are a lot of people saying “never forget 9/11”, but I see little chance of that happening. It will decades before the damages from 9/11 and the reaction to it will be even partly undone. Rather, we should say “learn from 9/11”. Don’t let terrorist acts, no matter how horrible, get you to allow politicians to lead the country into groundless wars.
On that note, my condolences are with everybody who lost someone on 9/11, or in the wars that followed it.
Note on comments:
While I generally would allow comments pushing conspiracy theories, if nothing else then for the amusement of shredding them, I actually have little patience for 9/11 Truthers, and I don’t think a remembrance post is the right place for that sort of stupidity, so any such comments will be deleted, and the poster might get banned.